Wednesday, September 30, 2015

39 Years. Over a Million Medicaid Kids Saved.

Today is the 39th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment.

First enacted on September 30, 1976, the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal Medicaid dollars for medically unnecessary abortions, except in cases of rape and incest. The result? There are over a million young Americans alive today who would have died in the absence of the Hyde Amendment. And that is a major cause for celebration!
We're not saying that the Hyde Amendment is perfect. In a handful of states, it has been rendered ineffective by activist judges who have ordered abortion payments from state Medicaid funds. It doesn't prevent taxpayer funding of abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood. And as previously stated, it doesn't offer any protection for children conceived in acts of violence.

But any policy that saves a million lives in less than 40 years is a policy worth preserving—and expanding.

Of course, abortion organizations don't see it that way. They're pushing for an end to the Hyde Amendment, using slogans like #BeBoldEndHyde. As if there's anything "bold" and courageous about killing someone who can't fight back.

One year from now, we will witness the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, and if it's anything like the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, it is going to be a zoo. So we're planning ahead, and we need your help.

Secular Pro-Life is seeking volunteers to serve on the advisory board for our Hyde Amendment project. To qualify, you must be a "Medicaid Kid"—a person who received prenatal/birth care through Medicaid as a baby, and who was born after September 30, 1976. We are very grateful to the pro-life Medicaid Kids who have already stepped up, and we need just two or three more to complete our board! Get all the details here.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#PinkOut for Planned Parenthood? We have a better idea.

Planned Parenthood is asking its supporters to "turn the internet pink" today, using the hashtags #PinkOut and #StandWithPP. This, of course, is in response to the #PPsellsbabyparts scandal and subsequent efforts to redirect Planned Parenthood's government funding to more deserving women's health providers.

I can't think of a better illustration of the shallowness of the pro-choice lobby. The pro-life movement sets forth legitimate concerns about organ sales and other unethical practices—including altering the abortion procedure in the interest of getting more intact organs, rather than in the interest of the woman's health—and they respond with "Ooo, look! PINK! Pink is pretty! Pink means we care about women!"

So we've created a meme to set the record straight:

We rarely use photos of abortion victims, but sometimes it is called for, and it's certainly an effective way to cut through the cutesy pink nonsense. The victim pictured here was killed when he or she was 10 weeks old, according to the Center for Bioethical Reform.

Please spread the meme far and wide, using their hashtag #PinkOut.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dear Bill Nye: Where's the science, guy?

NARAL Pro-Choice America posted a video featuring Bill Nye giving his views on abortion. Throughout the roughly four and a half minutes, Nye says pro-lifers have a “deep scientific lack of understanding” and hold positions “based on bad science.” He thinks we anti-abortion folk “apparently literally don’t know what you’re talking about” (as opposed to figuratively not knowing..? Not sure.)

We’d hope, then, that Nye would go on to explain exactly what scientific misunderstanding pro-lifers have, but sadly the video contains almost no science whatever. Instead Nye goes on about “men of European descent” (No, not really accurate) passing ignorant laws based on their “interpretation of a book written 5,000 years ago” (such a strawman) that apparently makes them think “when a man and a woman have sexual intercourse they always have a baby” (is that a joke?). He graciously informs us that, in fact, women don’t get pregnant literally every time they have sex. It’s a good thing we have famous scientists to explain that to us plebians.

Nye then meanders into very strange territory:
“You wouldn’t know how big a human egg was if it weren’t for microscopes. If it weren’t for scientists, medical researchers looking diligently. You wouldn’t know the process. You wouldn’t have that shot--the famous shot or shots where the sperm are bumping up against the egg. You wouldn’t have that without science. So then to claim that you know the next step when you obviously don’t… okay let me do that [take] again.”

It’s hard to understand how this distasteful mix of elitism and non sequiturs is supposed to relate to political positions on abortion. It seems like Nye is suggesting that pro-lifers and scientists are mutually exclusive groups (once again, off-base), that pro-lifers should be grateful to scientists for unraveling some of the mysteries of biology, and that pro-lifers are incapable of understanding the process of human reproduction beyond fertilization. In fact there seems to be this weird overtone hinting that science is inherently pro-choice and so pro-lifers have no right to discuss the scientific backing for our position.

These implications are especially rich considering Nye never does get around to explaining how the pro-life position is unscientific. The closest he comes is when he points out that many fertilized eggs don’t implant:
“Many many many more hundreds of eggs are fertilized than become humans. Eggs get fertilized—by that I mean sperm get accepted by ova—a lot. But that’s not all you need. You have to attach to the uterine wall, the inside of a womb.”

Nye is by no means the first person to suggest that implantation (attaching to the uterine wall) is somehow a more meaningful moment in human development than fertilization. The medical community defines the beginning of pregnancy as implantation, and plenty of pro-choicers have equivocated between the beginning of pregnancy and the beginning of a human organism.

But the people making this equivocation are the ones misunderstanding biology. As organisms, every one of us began as a zygote, and that means every one of us had a biological beginning that preceded the moment we implanted in our mother’s womb. Nye doesn’t explain how it’s “bad science” to acknowledge that reality. (Actually, I’m not sure whether Nye understands that’s what pro-lifers are saying. If Nye is aware of anything more than some pro-choice caricature of an actual pro-life position, he doesn’t show it.)

Note that even if implantation, rather than fertilization, were the defining moment of new human life, it wouldn't change the abortion debate very much. Abortions typically happen weeks or months after implantation. So even if Nye's comments had provided new, insightful information, they don't come close to demonstrating that an anti-abortion position must be based on "bad science."

Meanwhile, it’s true that if zygotes don’t implant they will die and not develop into fetuses. It’s also true that if fetuses get tangled in their umbilical cords they may be stillborn and not develop into infants. And infants with congenital heart defects may die and not develop into toddlers. And really any of us at any life stage could suffer a natural death and not develop into the next life stage. How does that fact imply that zygotes aren’t humans, much less that abortion is justified? Unfortunately, Nye is too busy venting his frustration at our ignorance to explain the relevance of his rambling. Or maybe he believes that as long as nature kills us, it’s okay if we kill each other. I mean tsunamis kill thousands of people, and that’s why we’re fine with genocide, right guys? Right?…No? Yeah, I guess that makes no sense at all.

The truth is science tells us the fetus is an organism and a member of our species (and it is a “deep scientific lack of understanding” to suggest otherwise). But science is descriptive, not prescriptive. Through genetics we know each of us inherits a mixture of our parents’ DNA; through embryology we know that our hearts begin to beat about three weeks after fertilization; through ultrasound and magnetic resonance technology we can watch the embryo's movements, which provide sensory input that spurs brain development; and yet this wealth of information can't indicate whether or why we should care.

Science can’t tell us what to value in human beings or when we should protect one another. Those questions fall within the realm of philosophy, a realm Nye steps squarely into when he implies a value judgement based on how easily organisms can naturally die. His implication isn’t a scientific fact, it’s a philosophical position, and Nye’s famous nickname doesn’t give him the right to conflate those two completely different approaches. It’s especially loathsome that this hand-wavy philosophical viewpoint is trying to be passed off as “science” by one of our country’s biggest science advocates. That’s not okay no matter how quirky his bowtie is.

Friday, September 25, 2015

35 Years of the One-Child Policy

A Chinese mother recovers from surgery with her forcibly aborted baby by her side.

Today marks the 35th anniversary of China's infamous one-child policy.

It is difficult for me, as an American, to wrap my head around the scale of this human rights disaster. Indeed, it's sometimes painful for me to look the abortion crisis of my own country straight in the eye. But we cannot turn away from the brutality and tragedy of the one-child policy. We owe it to the people of China to acknowledge their pain. And sadly, we must push back against our own leaders, like Joe Biden, for their cowardly acquiescence to China's slaughter of her own people.

In the United States, we lament the fact that boyfriends and fathers frequently coerce women into having abortions, using financial threats, emotional blackmail, and physical violence.
In China, women who are pregnant with a forbidden child are kidnapped by government agents, who then forcibly abort the children, even in the third trimester.

In the United States, we mourn the loss of approximately one million lives each year.
In China, there are over thirteen million abortions per year.

In the United States, sex-selective abortion is a pro-life concern in some regions, but in general, boys and girls are about equally likely to be victims of abortion.
In China, the one-child policy, combined with a strong traditional preference for sons, has led to the systematic destruction of preborn daughters so that today there are millions of "missing" women. Gendercide, in turn, exacerbates sex trafficking.

In the United States, pro-life advocates face censorship.
In China, pro-life advocates face arrest, beatings, and worse.

You can visit Women's Rights Without Frontiers to learn more about China's barbaric one-child policy.

Americans United for Life had an event planned in Washington, D.C. to mark this tragic anniversary, but it had to be postponed for security reasons related to the Pope's visit to the city. We will let you know when it is rescheduled.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Abortion is a symptom, not a solution

[Today's guest post is by Sean Cahill, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. She says: "Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I'm a woman, despite what my name suggests."]

When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we can safely assume that there is something wrong in society - so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged.

~Mattie Brinkerhoff, writing in Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton's feminist newspaper The Revolution, 1869

Whether you want abortion to be illegal or you champion the “right” to have an abortion up until a woman’s due date, we should be able to agree: when a woman has an abortion because she feels that it's the only way to make it in this world, we as a society have failed her.

The Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion, provides disturbing data on the reasons women seek abortion. They fall into two major categories: a lack of financial support, and a lack of emotional support. As Serrin Foster, the president of Feminists for Life, explains in the well-known speech The Feminist Case Against Abortion, most women who get abortions do so because they feel that they cannot complete their educations, would lose their jobs, would not be able to provide for their born children, or are afraid of stigma related to sex or pregnancy. These in fact are the very social problems that abortion lawyer Sarah Weddington emphasized during oral arguments for Roe v. Wade.

A lack of emotional or financial support is largely why women sought abortion in the 1800s, when prenatal development was poorly understood and abortion had not yet become illegal. If abortions are sought for the same or similar reasons as well over a hundred years later, where is our progress?

Pregnancy is not a disease and does not suddenly change a woman’s capacity to contribute to this world. And yet "feminists" tell me over and over: it would be impossible for her to complete college, pursue her career goals, or not end up on the street. If that's true, we have failed.

Why should we accept this? If these are in fact the justifications for abortion, then abortion is not a solution but a symptom, a symptom of a broken society that does not respect women for who they are.

In the years leading up to Roe v. Wade, Sarah Weddington, the National Organization of Women, and other lobbyists made a list evidencing women’s subordination, showing that women were being treated as second-class citizens. They shouted that pregnant and parenting women were forced to leave school, leave jobs, remain trapped in abusive relationships, raise children on their own because of irresponsible men, and were being alienated by friends and families because of the stigma related to sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. Then came the kicker: things were so bad for women that they were going to unlicensed doctors in unsanitary conditions, and having their unborn children dismembered and poisoned. Society responded, with the Supreme Court as its mouthpiece: You’re right, women do have it bad... you can start doing that last thing in a doctor’s office.

But no, we are not going to demand that children born outside of marriage and their mothers are de-stigmatized. No, we are not going to ensure women are able to earn a living wage. No, we are not going to ensure proper maternity benefits. No, we are not going to demand accommodations for parenting students and employees at colleges and workplaces. No, we are not going to demand men act responsibly. We are not going to do anything. You are going to have abortions. Society will not accommodate your fertility; your fertility must accommodate society. You get pregnant, you deal with it. 

Is this what liberal society celebrates every 22nd of January?

Where would we be today if the social activists of the 1960s and 1970s had demanded better than abortion? What if, forty-two years ago, people had looked at the list of reasons abortion was “necessary” and began systematically addressing those problems? What if we didn’t have legal abortion acting as a band-aid masking the real problems? What if women told boldly colleges, employers, men, and society at large: “We get pregnant. Accept it.”

This does not mean merely accepting the fact that pregnancy happens, but creating a culture of life that embraces motherhood instead of scorning it. Whether pro-choice or pro-life, we all have to agree that abortion should not be necessary for a woman to make it in this world. I say we demand better than abortion. We must demand society accept women as we are. Men are not the benchmark. Men can have sex without getting pregnant. Women get pregnant. Accept it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Senate vote on Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act expected today

The Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, commonly referred to as the "20-week ban" because supporters rely on evidence that children can feel pain 20 weeks after conception, is coming up for a vote in the Senate today. The House has already passed it.

I've noticed some confusion about whether this is related to the exploitation of late-term babies for organ harvesting and research, how this is connected to the ongoing Planned Parenthood scandal, and why pro-life leaders are pushing the issue when we all know President Obama will veto it anyway. So let's get back to basics.

The 20-week ban is the bare minimum of human decency. Developmentally, babies at 20 weeks of gestation are not much different from preemies. They can hear, respond to touchkick, and yes, feel pain.

Above: A 21-week-old preborn baby smiles.

Even if you stubbornly believe in your heart of hearts that you become a person when you pass through the birth canal and not a second earlier, a 20-week ban is easily justified on pure animal welfare grounds. That may be why the majority of people who identify themselves as pro-choice reject such late-term abortions. Another important majority in favor of the 20-week ban: women.

Very few other nations allow elective abortions after 20 weeks. Among them are China and North Korea, not exactly the role models we want to follow on human rights.

We've been pursuing pain-capable legislation for a long time, at both the state and federal level. It was in the works for years before anyone had heard of the Center for Medical Progress, and it is not specific to Planned Parenthood. (In fact, the most notorious late-term abortionists are affiliated with independent abortion businesses; think Leroy Carhart and Kermit Gosnell.)

We are pushing forward despite opposition from the White House because this is an opportunity to hold Obama and his allies in Congress accountable for their extreme pro-abortion stance. Remember, President Clinton vetoed the partial-birth abortion ban twice before it finally passed under Bush, and it took several more years to get through the Supreme Court. The same persistence is needed here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Slate: Be suspicious of safe havens, because pro-lifers support them!

"Safe haven" is a catchall term for laws that allow mothers to surrender newborns to hospitals, police stations, and similar facilities without facing any liability or interrogation. Every state in the U.S. has a safe haven law.

Slate published an article on the subject last week. At first, author Christina Cauterucci talks sense:
From a harm reduction standpoint, safe haven laws are an ideal way to prevent infant death and mistreatment without ignoring the reality that some mothers, for one reason or another, won’t consider formal adoption or parenthood viable options.
The harm being reduced here is babies left in dumpsters. So yeah, pretty important. Good.

Then it gets weird.

Cauterucci, quoting a book review, asserts with no evidence whatsoever that safe haven proponents treat mothers "as vessels for the precious infants, not as people in their own right with their own needs." Weren't we just talking about how safe haven laws meet the needs of mothers who "for one reason or another, won't consider formal adoption or parenthood viable options"?

Next paragraph:
Anti-abortion organizations have lobbied for safe haven laws as a means of preventing infanticide and offering another route for women who might have otherwise chosen abortion. One extreme development in safe haven options, Indiana’s pilot program for the kind of baby drop-boxes that currently exist in some countries in Europe and East Asia, is the pet project of pro-lifer Monica Kelsey.
Understand that this is Slate, whose authors and readers lean strongly in favor of abortion. When Cauterucci reports on pro-life advocacy for safe haven laws, she is making an argument against safe haven laws. That is made abundantly clear in the following paragraph, when she suggests that maybe safe haven laws aren't all bad, "though their advocates have leaned on anti-choice rhetoric."

Note carefully that this will not prevent anyone at Slate from continuing to assert that those mean anti-choicers do nothing to help mothers or children after birth, because we just want to control women's bodies.

Cauterucci takes issue with Monica Kelsey's approach in particular, stating that the U.N. "has condemned these boxes on the grounds that children have the right to identify their parents." In an ideal world, yes, everyone would know who their parents are. We do not live in an ideal world. Not knowing who your parents are is unfair, and even if the child is emotionally okay with it, there are the negative consequences of not having a complete family medical history. Still, it's not a fate worse than death... right?
Women need cheaper and more accessible ways to prevent or terminate unwanted pregnancies, and they need more support as mothers should they choose to give birth. They need these things more than they need easier ways to abandon their babies.
I can't formulate a better response than this comment on the original article:
I wonder if the author would be willing to look one of these kids in the face and say "it's too bad your mom didn't have better access to pregnancy termination services."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Focusing On the Unborn Child is So Crucial

Scott Klusendorf, president of Life Training Institute, developed a tool to help us keep the conversation focused on what the unborn is. That tool is called Trot Out the Toddler. Essentially, if someone is talking about circumstances, such as poverty, while these circumstances are important to discuss, they are not the issues that affect the morality or the immorality of abortion. As an example, if a woman is in poverty, we would not allow her to kill her toddler to ease the poverty of herself or her other kids, so if the unborn is a human being like the toddler is, then we can't allow a pregnant woman to kill her unborn child for that reason.

I have been perusing some pro-choice blogs this morning, and a lot of them are themed "why I am pro-choice". I haven't seen every single one, but they all tend to have one thing in common: they focus on circumstances. Not a one made a rigorous case for why abortion is morally permissible. Instead, they focus on women's circumstances and insist that women "need" abortions, irrespective of what the unborn is. They don't even seem bothered by the possibility that this could be an actual human child in the womb that they are callously destroying because they feel, for whatever reason, that the time is not right to "bring a child into the world."

It may make the abortion decision easier, and they can avoid making themselves look like monsters by convincing themselves it's not a child (all while making pro-life people look like monsters because we're trying to "take essential healthcare decisions away from women"), but it's an illegitimate move because this question must be answered before we can talk about whether or not abortion is a moral decision or whether or not it should be legal.

There are several arguments for the pro-life position, but the basic one is simple: It is immoral and should be illegal to intentionally kill an innocent human being. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is immoral and should be illegal. If your argument for abortion doesn't address this simple pro-life syllogism, then you are assuming your position is correct. You are not arguing for it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

We need your help

Historically, January has been the most expensive month of the year for Secular Pro-Life. January is when we have the best opportunity to share our secular message and equip pro-lifers to reach people of any faith and no faith. January is the March for Life in Washington, D.C., the Walk for Life West Coast in San Francisco, and the corresponding east coast and west coast Students for Life of America conferences. January is a whirlwind. (Or perhaps I should say it's a blizzard...)

But it's totally worth it, because Secular Pro-Life's presence is critically needed. Every year, we meet people who've never even heard of pro-life atheists. Every year, we assist student activists who are eager to make their pro-life clubs appealing to non-Christians. And every time one of our giant march banners appears in a media photo, it's a blow to pro-abortion stereotypes about what the pro-life movement is all about.

Even though it's only September, the expenses of January have already begun. We just purchased our exhibit spaces for the SFLA conferences. Soon we will buy mountains of postcards and brochures for pro-life students to take back to their schools. Our policy is to never charge students, so Secular Pro-Life relies on the generosity of donors to make it all happen.

One especially generous donor has stepped forward with a $1000 matching gift. If we can raise $1000 from our supporters, we'll have $2000 and be well on our way to covering January's bills! Thanks to another generous donor, we're already more than a quarter of the way to our $1000 goal.

If you value what Secular Pro-Life is doing, please support us with a donation. If you can only give ten dollars, give ten dollars; it will be twenty dollars to us! If you can give more, please give whatever amount you are comfortable with.

Thank you so much for your donations, your encouragement, and your zeal for life. With your help, we will make this our best January yet.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Webcast tonight with the Center for Medical Progress

The Center for Medical Progress, the organization behind the undercover investigation of Planned Parenthood, is having a webcast tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern (6:00 p.m. Pacific).

The webcast will feature David Daleiden of CMP along with the lawyers who are defending him against lawsuits from NARAL and other abortion lobby actors. So far, Planned Parenthood has not sued, but it's a strong possibility.

I don't know much about the content planned for the webcast, but based on who's speaking, I expect that the focus will be on attacks on freedom of speech. David Bereit of 40 Days for Life is also speaking, so there will probably be some religious content.

Monday, September 14, 2015

You can be pro-choice without supporting Planned Parenthood

[Today's guest post is by Sean Cahill, a recent graduate of the University of Arizona College of Law. She says: "Because it changes the way my voice is heard when it comes to life issues, I feel compelled to state that I'm a woman, despite what my name suggests."]

Safe, legal, and rare.

Whenever I hear this phrase spoken by an abortion advocate, it is usually followed by an argument that while abortion is not ideal, it is necessary because of all the hardships women face, and abortion should be safe. That argument is at least internally consistent, and I find myself partially in agreement: IF abortion is going to be legal, then of coarse it should be safe and rare. As deeply saddened as I am by the loss of any life, I could put aside the issue of legality while working with those on the other side to make abortion safe and rare.

In fact, if together we could confront the reasons for abortion—if we could make it so that no woman ever feels it is necessary, all women understand what abortion is, and has access to alternatives—would we even need to make it illegal? When legislation is proposed that would ensure that babies born alive are protected, that abortion clinics have to be safe and sanitary, and that women contemplating abortion must be informed, I naively think we’ve got to be able to all work together on this… right?

Then I watch and read in horror as pro-choice individuals support a Planned Parenthood representative stating that what to do about a baby sitting on the counter alive after a botched abortion should be decided by the woman and her doctor. I see them oppose to simple safety regulations that already apply to other outpatient surgical facilities, such as ensuring halls are wide enough to accommodate gurneys in the case of an emergency. I see them fight tooth and nail against any and all informed consent laws.

Is this safe, legal, and rare? Is this choice? Has Planned Parenthood ever supported any regulation of abortion? Is abortion the one medical procedure that should go entirely unregulated and unrestricted?

If you are pro-choice, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you hold that position because you believe it is in women’s best interest.  But let me ask you: is it in the best interest of women to ignore sexual abuse? Is it in the best interest of women to ignore sex trafficking? (Before you shout “edited!” the full investigative footage is available for both of these in the same links.) Is it in the best interest of young, teen women to tell them there is absolutely no possibility of “long-term depression or mental-health problems” following an abortion, when there are findings to the contrary, and countless women have experienced post-abortive grief and bound together in organizations like the Silent No More Campaign and Rachel’s Vineyard? Is it in the best interest of women for Planned Parenthood affiliates to have abortion quotas? (And if you dismiss evidence from pro-life former Planned Parenthood workers as “biased,” do you view current Planned Parenthood workers as biased?  Do you ever wonder what causes people who are supposedly on the forefront of women’s liberation to turn away and become pro-life?)

Is this safe, legal, and rare? Is Planned Parenthood the best we can do?    

I often think to myself: If only abortion advocates saw what I saw. But that’s just it. They don’t see what we see. Planned Parenthood has trained them to reject any image or video that shows abortion in a bad light as impossible; it must have been doctored. And any woman who regrets her abortion must have been brainwashed by religious fanatics. Where we see facts, they see propaganda. Where we see abortion, they see women’s rights.

Pro-choicers, consider that I have shed tears, wishing that I didn’t see what I see. When given the choice, who would expose themselves to the emotional pain of seeing humanity in a pile of baby parts when you could just see “fetuses” instead? Who would choose to see women hurting, when instead you could see biased anti-choice bigots? Being pro-life isn’t easy or fun. But I have to be pro-life, because I am committed to the truth.

I truly believe that we agree on a whole lot more than we disagree on, and while there are fundamental differences that are not open to compromise, I really think that pro-life and pro-choice could work together for women and children. We would all feel our missions were accomplished if no woman felt abortion was necessary because society met the needs of pregnant and parenting women.

But to work together, pro-choicers have to break with their leaders—especially Planned Parenthood—that have acted in opposition to women’s interests.  We need to have real, informed conversations in which the experiences of post-abortive women and former abortion workers are not tuned out. We need to talk about what is really happening.

Pro-choicers, don’t let Planned Parenthood make you their puppet. You fought hard for women, you fought for what you thought was right, and you handed this great responsibility over to Planned Parenthood. Are you honestly satisfied with what they’ve done with it? Look at the state of abortion in this country and ask: Is this what women deserve? Is this safe, legal, and rare? Is this the best we can do? Being pro-choice does not mean being pro-Planned Parenthood. Don’t give them free rein just because they’re willing to get their hands dirty. You’ve trusted them with a whole lot; but are they worthy of that trust?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Heartbreaking letters from loved ones of abortion workers

And Then There Were None, the organization led by former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson that helps people leave the abortion industry, is conducting a "Love Letter" campaign for people to send messages to abortion workers. Some of the submissions are generic (and unfortunately, heavily religious) messages that could have come from anyone.

But others appear to be entreaties to specific abortion workers from their family members and friends. And they are extremely painful to read.

I cannot imagine the pain of nurturing a child, only to watch that child grow up to destroy other children for profit:
I have so much to say to you, my precious child. I’ve loved you since before you were born...
Your dad and I sacrificed so much for you to become a doctor. We were so proud when you graduated from medical school and finished your residency in Chicago. Then our hearts were broken and our spirits were slashed by your choice to perform abortions. We cry everyday, I don’t think we will ever feel a greater pain than on that day we learned of your decision to be an abortionist. Your dad and I are broken people because of your decision. Your desire to do exactly what you want has had deep ramifications on all of us who love you so much. Your family has been so deeply hurt...
Please stop performing these abortions, and return to us, your mom and dad, who ache to see you and hold you close again. You don’t need to explain or apologize to us. Just stop and you will be received with open hearts and open arms waiting to hold you. We will never hold this against you...
Then there's this letter, simply entitled "From a friend":
When I think of you I see someone sweet, vivacious, positive, idealistic…I remember when your ideals took you to Haiti. I am sure that now, just like then, you want to help people and that is what you believe. I shudder to think of the things you may see or be expected to do; I worry about the high cost this will exact on you. It would be a tragedy for you to become like someone who discusses crushing little bodies over lunch. Please, please run before you get caught up any deeper in this...
Another person writes:
You are so loved. In fact, you are an easy person to love! You have such a giving, tender heart. You are thoughtful, compassionate, kind and generous. And these characteristics do not slowly uncover themselves after people get to know you. They are apparent the minute one meets you. People are drawn to you and feel comfortable with you because of that very special quality you have. It is a gift, and one you give to others everyday, even if you are not aware of it. 
You have also been given the gift of a keen intellect. You should be very proud of your achievements from a prestigious East Coast institution. 
It must have felt very flattering and gratifying to receive an offer upon graduation at Planned Parenthood. It promised a good salary. The location was perfect. No crazy, swing shift hours. The job offered stability. Planned Parenthood is quite good at creating camaraderie amongst its workers. They claim advocacy for women and that appeals to your giving, helpful personality. But you should leave Planned Parenthood. 
Your gifts and talents are being abused...
Emotions may be shut down and closed behind a locked door, but they are there and will eventually refuse to stay behind locked doors. That is the way humans work. We can compartmentalize our lives for so long before the feelings leak out in sometimes-poisonous ways. Planned Parenthood may deny this, but it is the truth...
So many people love and admire you. It is out of love that this letter is being written.
You have made no commitments to Planned Parenthood.  No vows have been taken! It is not a religion where allegiances have been made. You are a nurse, and have so many, many gifts to give our world. You deserve to be in a setting where life is protected. You deserve to be in a setting where your nursing skills are used to save lives. You deserve to be in a setting that is not fraught with controversy, and ugly truths that go with abortions. 
You deserve the best! Please take the leap of faith (and I know it is a BIG one!) and leave Planned Parenthood... 
Will any abortion workers read the letters intended for them? I doubt it. Obviously, to convert from an abortion worker to a pro-lifer is not unheard of. But it does require overcoming pride, group think, confirmation bias, and a host of other psychological barriers.

In my opinion, the best audience for these letters is medical students. Reach them early, before the abortion lobby recruits them with the shiny propaganda of "heroes helping women." Let them see the toll that this so-called heroism takes on family and friends. Let them see that there is a better way.

If you know someone in the abortion industry, you can send a love letter here. (Content is reviewed before posting, so if you're going to advocate for abortionists to keep killing, don't waste your time.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Happenings on the Hill

TODAY: This morning starting at 10:00 a.m. EST, Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen will testify before a House committee.* Both women are survivors of late-term abortions.

In response, the sole pro-abortion witness, a Yale law professor, will testify that abortion "not only to protects women’s health and lives, but also protects their equal status in society." I wonder if Professor Smith will have the guts to look at Melissa and Gianna when she delivers that line.

The hearing will stream live at

TOMORROW: Pro-life advocates will keep up the heat on the abortion industry with a #WomenBetrayed rally on the Capitol building lawn (area 10 on this map). Attendees will "hear directly from women who have been harmed by Planned Parenthood," after which there will be an opportunity to lobby legislators.

It's a nice symmetry: today's testimony within the Congress featuring women harmed by abortion as babies, and tomorrow's testimony outside of Congress featuring women harmed by abortion as teens and adults. Abortion affects everyone.

If you are in the Washington, D.C. area, be sure to attend and share your experience with us!

* I happen to know Melissa, and she has contributed to this blog before. Although both women are Christian, Melissa's testimony is non-sectarian; Gianna's is expressly religious.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Incrementalism in the Anti-Slavery Movement

The movement against abortion may be divided into two segments. The larger and better-known is the pro-life movement, of which Secular Pro-Life is a part. The pro-life movement is associated with an incrementalist strategy; pro-lifers are the people behind pregnancy centers, informed consent laws, partial-birth abortion bans, born-alive infant protection acts, and so on. Pro-lifers acknowledge that the pro-Roe Justices of the Supreme Court are not going to suddenly lose their pride, admit their error, and end abortion overnight. Instead, we work to save as many babies as we can in the interim, while the legal eagles of the movement set up challenges to the underpinnings of Roe.

There are also opponents of abortion who disclaim the pro-life label, believing that the incrementalist strategy is harmful and sanctions evil. They demand the total and immediate abolition of abortion and won't support any legal or legislative effort that does less. They are also, as a rule, highly evangelical Protestants who have a problem with Catholics. These people call themselves abolitionists, and the most prominent example is Abolish Human Abortion (AHA). AHA writes: "You can be a secular pro-lifer. You cannot be a secular abolitionist." AHA apparently believes that if just you preach the Gospel enough, abortion will go away. (I don't need to tell you SPL's position on that.)

People who desire the restoration of the right to life for preborn humans often find inspiration from earlier social movements, particularly the fight against slavery. In both cases, you have a group of human beings who are legally treated as property rather than persons as a result of an unjust Supreme Court decision. I know our pro-choice readers despise the parallel, but it's one of those things that once seen, can't be unseen.

But the "abolitionist" segment's embrace of the parallel is far, far stronger. Just check out AHA's Abolitionism Through the Ages page.

In fact, however, the movement to abolish slavery included incrementalist elements too. So without further ado, here are three examples of incrementalism in the original abolitionist movement:

1. Slave Ship Regulation

This image has come to symbolize the horror of the Middle Passage (click to enlarge):

The history of this image is even more disturbing. The full version includes the title "Stowage of the British Slave Ship 'Brookes' Under the Regulated Slave Trade Act of 1788." What was the Regulated Slave Trade Act, you ask?
After the 1788 Regulation Act, the Brookes (also spelled Brooks) was allowed to carry 454 slaves, the approximate number shown in this illustration. However, in four earlier voyages (1781-86), she carried from 609 to 740 slaves so crowding was much worse than shown here; for example, in her 1782 voyage with 609 enslaved Africans, there were 351 men, 127 women, 90 boys, and 41 girls crammed into its decks.
I cannot begin to imagine.

Wikipedia notes: "The act was supported by some abolitionists, including Olaudah Equiano, an African who was a former slave. But, some abolitionists, such as William Wilberforce, feared that the act would establish the idea that the slave trade was not fundamentally unjust, but merely an activity that needed further regulation." And so the debate continues.

2. Ban on Obtaining Slaves through the International Market

A slaveholder had essentially two methods to obtain more slaves: purchasing slaves shipped directly from their homes in Africa, or relying on the domestic supply of slaves. In 1808, the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves went into effect in the U.S. From that point forward, all new slaves would be descendants of slaves already in the country.

Although some international slavers flouted the law, they risked a conviction of piracy that was punishable by the death penalty. The "peculiar institution" continued primarily on the strength of children born into slavery.

3. Protecting Slaves from (Emotional) Pain

I learned something new when Slate history writer Rebecca Onion reviewed a slave auction pamphlet from 1855:
Unusually, the people formerly owned by Lambeth were advertised for sale as family groups. Louisiana was one of the only states that had laws against selling very young children separately from their mothers—as historian Heather Williams writes, "the vast majority of enslaved children [in the United States] belonged to people who had complete discretion to sell them or give them away at will."
* * *

What to make of these incrementalist measures? Was Wilberforce right to worry that regulation would undermine the effort to wake people up to the underlying evil?

I am not a historian. The events leading up to the Civil War are obviously more than this humble blog post can handle. We can never know the what-ifs; whether the War, and at its conclusion the abolition of slavery, would have come sooner, or later, in the absence of incremental legislation.

I can only tell you how I would have voted on these measures if I had been a legislator in the era of slavery. On the slave ship regulation, I would have fought for an amendment to do more, but it would be hard to justify a "no" vote that would maintain the status quo of people literally laying on top of one another for weeks at a time. The other two are no-brainers: I absolutely would have voted to end the horrors of the Middle Passage, even though it did not address the horrors of continuing domestic slavery, and I absolutely would have voted to prohibit slaveholders from ripping families apart. Anything else would have been a complete abdication of moral duty. But I don't expect these examples will get AHA members to change their minds.

If you take only one lesson from this post, let it be this: every movement for social change has its factions. It's common and completely understandable for pro-lifers to get frustrated over disunity. I do it too. A lot. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking this problem is unique to abortion. We're not special. There will always be disagreement about tactics. We can—we must—succeed anyway.

Friday, September 4, 2015

A very special announcement...

For as long as Secular Pro-Life has been in existence, we've sponsored a booth at the Students for Life of America (SFLA) annual conference in Washington, D.C. When SFLA added a second conference for West Coast students, we set up shop there too. We've always placed a very high value on our interactions with campus pro-life leaders: young people are more likely than average to eschew religion, and the pro-life movement is increasingly student-led. In fact, Secular Pro-Life itself has its roots in the student pro-life movement; Kelsey Hazzard founded the organization shortly before her college graduation in 2009. Young people form the core of our membership. Bottom line: the connection goes deep.

We are very excited to announce that in 2016, Secular Pro-Life won't only have a booth at the SFLA conferences. This time, we'll also be part of the program!

Kelsey will present at both the East Coast and West Coast conferences as part of a workshop entitled "Inclusive Campus Movement: Tactics of Inclusion." (Other speakers for this workshop are to be announced.) The workshop will equip pro-life student organizations to escape "the Catholic/Christian ghetto" and reach the entire student body. We are thrilled that SFLA is offering this vital workshop, and excited to offer our insight.

Conference registration is not yet open—we'll be sure to let you know as soon as it is!—but now is the time to start making your plans. The East Coast conference will be on January 23, 2016 (the day after the March for Life), in the D.C. suburb of Upper Marlboro, MD. The West Coast conference will be on January 24, 2016 (the day after the Walk for Life West Coast), in San Francisco, CA.

Secular Pro-Life will naturally be part of the March and Walk as well. Stay tuned for details on that.

And finally: January is traditionally the most expensive month of Secular Pro-Life's year. There's the cost of the booth space, the cost of printing the SPL literature we distribute to the thousands of pro-life students attending these conferences, and so on. If you have the money and appreciate what we do, please help us out by making a donation. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Advice: How to respond when I'm asked where I attend church?

We love to offer advice to readers who ask. The latest person to write to our informal advice column is J. M., who asks:
I am a new pro-lifer. I started a pro-life blog this year and I have been reading about the abortion issue. I am passionate about protecting the lives of the unborn and supporting women in choosing life. As of now, my main concern is how to fit into the pro-life movement and community. I am Christian, which is the stereotype of pro-lifers. However, I am not a church-attending Christian for personal reasons. Where I live, the majority of pro-lifers attend a church and a lot of pro-life activism is centered around the church-attending Christian community. When I go to pro-life events, I am often asked what church I attend. Due to this, I sometimes feel as though I am not welcome or do not belong. Since this is Secular Pro-Life, I am wondering if you have any advice for someone like me who wants to be a part of the pro-life movement, but feels different.
We answered:
I'm so glad you've found Secular Pro-Life! First of all, I hope you'll take comfort in the fact that you're not alone. Many pro-lifers fall outside the stereotype. Don't let anyone make you believe you're the only one.
When I'm asked about my religion, I usually just say something like "I'm not religious. I'm pro-life because abortion is a human rights issue." In my experience, most Christians have responded positively, either accepting it at face value or asking friendly follow-up questions out of genuine curiosity, wanting to know how I became involved, and even how they can be more welcoming! The negative responses have been few and far between, and are best responded to with humor. (For example, some stranger on a blog commented that Secular Pro-Life is a dangerous plot by the devil to damage the spiritual core of the pro-life movement or some such nonsense; I pointed out that if I had made a deal with the devil, I would be much, much wealthier.)
So you might say something like "I don't usually attend church. I got involved in the pro-life movement recently, through..." That brings the conversation back around to common ground.
She liked that advice, but agreed to let us share this conversation on the blog so that you can chime in. What advice do you have for J.M.?

[Got your own question for Secular Pro-Life? Contact us.]

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Are CMP's full footage videos actually the full footage?

Planned Parenthood hired Fusion GPS to analyze the CMP videos.

On August 25, a forensic research firm called Fusion GPS produced a report on the first four Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos. The report has been well-covered by the media (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPRLos Angeles Times) and Planned Parenthood (PP) supporters are pointing to it as evidence that the CMP videos are maliciously edited to the point of giving no real information.

Not long before Fusion GPS released the report, I read what I considered a very objective, reasonable article on the CMP videos. The author, Sarah Kliff, has written a follow-up in response to the Fusion GPS analysis in which she seems to agree that Fusion GPS has some serious points CMP hasn’t sufficiently addressed. I expect many of us pro-lifers are going to be suspicious of anyone hired by PP who decides PP is innocent, but because Kliff's first article already seemed reasonable and objective to me, her follow up concerns made me more concerned about the Fusion GPS report than I otherwise might have been. The full report is available online, so I read it myself.

In their report, Fusion GPS talks about how CMP edited not only their shorter videos (a fact CMP has readily admitted from the beginning), but also their longer videos, which CMP has labeled simply “full footage.”

Specifically, Fusion GPS says they've identified “cuts, skips, missing tape, and changes in camera angle” and that “the full footage videos contained numerous intentional post-production edits.” The report states upfront that “many of these edits removed likely irrelevant content from the beginning and end of the interviews” but goes on to point out that there were “edits that removed content from the middle” of all four videos as well. 

The Fusion GPS report sometimes seems to grasp at straws.

The report discusses in detail the edits from the middle of interviews: video cuts that ranged anywhere from 14 seconds to a few minutes to up to an hour. The report also discusses issues with CMP’s transcripts, including words in the transcripts missing from the videos, and phrases in the transcripts that seemed unintelligible in the videos. 

In particular, the report discusses at length why Fusion GPS believes PP employees were unlikely to have said the phrases “it’s a baby” or “another boy.” Here I think the report gets pretty subjective. A forensic report should give facts (e.g. “this video was cut at this timestamp,” “an independent transcription firm could not discern this phrase” and so on). Fusion GPS moves from fact to opinion when they start discussing whether phrases like “it’s a baby” are things a PP employee would likely say. Moreover, they seemed unable to find any facts to suggest the phrase “another boy” was faked or incorrect; indeed, their report states they found no evidence of audio manipulation in any of the videos. But instead of leaving the analysis at that, they veer into speculation by wondering what context might make the phrase "another boy" less jarring.

Fusion GPS also speculates as to what might have been in the footage cut from CMP’s “full footage” videos. (Perhaps CMP actors were the ones to bring up gender?) Again, this kind of speculation seems to veer from a forensic report; it sounds more like Planned Parenthood damage control. Similarly, Fusion GPS details places where the video shifts from one camera to another, but they don't suggest these shifts represent any loss of video or audio, so what is their point? Lumping changes that don't affect meaning with changes that do just makes it seem as if they want their report to be as heavy hitting on PP's behalf as possible, as opposed to simply being a report of the facts.

But I wouldn't want to dismiss every point Fusion GPS makes just because some of the points are iffy, especially since that is exactly the type of dismissal we pro-lifers are hoping the public won't do with CMP. Fusion GPS makes several points that are significant and, I believe, pretty disconcerting.

CMP released "full footage" that was actually still edited.

While pro-life bloggers (LifeNewsLiveActionMatt Walsh) have dismissed Fusion GPS for being biased for PP and grasping at straws, I think Fusion GPS did make some very significant points: CMP appears to have cut large chunks from its “full footage” videos, and there is footage in the short, edited videos that never appears in the full footage videos.

For example, page 4 of the Fusion GPS report states that CMP cut about 30 minutes of footage from the meeting with Melissa Farrell of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast. Moreover, the report suggests that the missing content seems to be the same content from which CMP created some of the edited video. This is particularly troublesome because the purpose of releasing full footage is to show the entire context of edited footage. If the edited footage doesn't even all appear in the “full footage,” it defeats the purpose of releasing the "full footage" at all. On top of that, Fusion GPS states that the missing section of the “full footage” video coincides with about 4,000 words of dialogue in CMP’s transcript that isn’t in the “full footage” video either, meaning independent analysis couldn't confirm whether that part of CMP’s transcript actually took place.

There are other examples of this kind of manipulation besides the Gulf Coast video.  In general, CMP’s short, edited videos contain some camera angles, video, and audio that never appear in the “full footage” videos.

CMP’s initial response to Fusion GPS 

As I said earlier, I get that we pro-lifers will be suspicious of a firm hired by PP that determines PP is innocent. But CMP's own response to Fusion GPS furthered my concerns about CMP's "full footage." CMP issued a one paragraph response stating, “The absence of bathroom breaks and waiting periods between meetings does not change the hours of dialogue with top-level Planned Parenthood executives…” This isn't at all reassuring. 

First, their response seems to acknowledge that, yes, they did cut chunks from the videos they labeled “full footage.” Right away this is a major problem. Many pro-life people and groups, including Secular Pro-Life, have responded to the “heavily edited” accusations by saying CMP released the full footage for anyone’s perusal. Now CMP seems to be admitting they did not release actual full footage, but rather a kind of extended footage that was still edited in some ways. 

Second, their response is dismissive, not detailed and concrete. 
  1. It doesn’t matter if the reason they cut footage was they deemed it too boring or irrelevant to leave in. The whole point of releasing full footage is to leave in everything so people can see for themselves that CMP didn’t cut any context that changes the overall meaning of the videos. As a contrasting example, Live Action has released full footage videos that include over 20 minutes of someone just sitting in a waiting room before an appointment with Planned Parenthood. That is full footage, that’s what everyone assumes you mean when you say “full footage,” and that is apparently not what we have with CMP.
  2. It’s not at all clear that CMP really did just cut bathroom breaks and waiting periods. It would have been more transparent (though still not full footage) if they had left in a dialogue along the lines of “I’m going to use the restroom,” fade to black, and then fade back in with, “Okay, so where were we…” (or whatever was said). Likewise, the 30 minute cut doesn’t appear to be between meetings but instead appears to begin and end in the midst of the same meeting with Melissa Farrell. The way CMP cut their “full footage” isn’t transparent; it’s suspicious. And given PP suporters and the uncomfortable “mushy middle” will look for any reason to be suspicious and ignore videos like this, CMP had every reason to be much more careful and forthright.
  3. CMP did leave in a lot of other boring and irrelevant footage in their “full footage” videos, which raises the question: why did the cut footage merit getting cut if they weren’t cutting all boring, irrelevant footage?

The CMP videos made compelling points.

As Sarah Kliff summarized well, the first few CMP videos contain fairly damning footage. Planned Parenthood claims it only recovers costs for fetal tissue donation, yet Dr. Mary Gatter sounds very much as if she is haggling over prices. Planned Parenthood has been known to underplay and dismiss fetal development, yet we hear PP employees discussing hearts, brains, livers, and kidneys. There’s also the bioethical issue of altering an abortion procedure in the interest of obtaining intact organs instead of the interest of what is best for the woman. More recent CMP videos have brought up concerns about whether Planned Parenthood employees are even consistently obtaining consent from the women before collecting the fetal organs. And then there’s the broader issue of late-term abortion. The average American is not okay with abortion after the first trimester, and if more people realized both how frequent and how gruesome it is, maybe we could get enough momentum to make some changes.

The CMP videos bring all of the above issues to the forefront, and that’s why the videos are so important. But the videos are only going to be influential insofar as people trust the source, and that’s why CMP’s apparent edits of the full footage are also so important.

We should not need to manipulate information.

It’s possible that CMP really did cut a bunch of irrelevant content that would not change the meaning of these videos one way or another. But if that’s the case, they really had no reason, no benefit at all, to making the cuts in the first place, and especially no benefit to making the cuts without being upfront about what they cut and why.

We pro-lifers are trying to find ways to get the people on-the-fence—the begrudgingly pro-choice—to face head on how unhindered acceptance of abortion can produce such a cruel and callous disregard for fetal life. Getting people to face abortion is a real challenge. Many of you have told us about how you share the CMP videos and basically get back crickets—no one wants to talk about it, no one even wants to consider it. There are very strong emotional and social reasons for people to just ignore abortion, and if we are going to overcome those strong biases, we have to be a movement they trust. If people believe the pro-life movement will lie and manipulate to try to win a debate, they aren’t going to listen to us even when we have evidence of real atrocities. (I’ve talked about this before, specifically in the context of pro-life sting videos.) That’s why the Fusion GPS analysis is a big deal: if it appears CMP can only make their point by manipulating information, any evidence CMP has of real horrors will be readily ignored.

We pro-lifers must be meticulous about our facts. If we sacrifice some transparency for a more compelling narrative, we cut our own feet out from under us and we do a great disservice to the unborn lives we are trying to protect. We can’t afford that.

Post Scripts

According to a LifeNews article from yesterday (August 31), CMP has further responded to the Fusion GPS report by releasing the missing half hour from the Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast video along with a much more detailed rebuttal to the report. While I wish CMP had included this half hour in the original "full footage," I'm glad they've released it now. The release and the subsequent rebuttal are steps toward more transparency, which are steps in the right direction.